Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name



Educational Psychology

First Advisor

Stephen B. Hillman, Ph.D.


Exposure to violence has reached epidemic proportions among youth in the United States in recent years (Fingerhut & Kleinman, 1990; Finkelhor & Dzuiba-Leatherman, 1994). Recently, efforts to quantify violence exposure, both direct victimization and victimization through witnessing, have been initiated. Additionally, researchers have begun to explore the effect such exposure exerts on its victims. The present study was designed to examine the psychological sequelae of exposure to violent events on urban middle school students. Participants consisted of 224 seventh and eighth grade students of diverse ethnic backgrounds from McKinley Middle School, located in Flint, Michigan. Students were fairly evenly divided between genders (n(boys)=98, n(girls)=112, n(unreported)=12). The independent variable was exposure to violence, as assessed by the Children's Report of Exposure to Violence (Cooley et al, 1995). A co-variate, Family Conflict, was proposed but dropped from the analyses due to an excessive number of incomplete responses on the instrument used to assess this variable. Dependent variables examined included: attributional style, hopelessness, future orientation, self-esteem, academic functioning, and trauma symptoms. Results indicate that students in the high exposure group demonstrate significantly higher levels of distress symptoms and hopelessness than those in the low exposure group. Composite negative attributional style, hopelessness, and trauma symptoms were found to be positively correlated with violence exposure. Self-esteem was found to have an inverse relationship with violence exposure. An exploratory analysis (discriminant function analysis) indicated that students' classification as either ''high-exposed'' or ''low-exposed'' could be correctly predicted using four predictor variables collectively: total self-esteem score, overall attributional style, hopelessness, and future orientation. 65.6% of cases were correctly classified. One independent variable, school self-esteem, was found to account for a significant amount of the variance (9%) in students' GPA, whereas none of the predictor variables accounted for significant amount of variance in Teacher Report Form scores. None of the demographic variables examined accounted for significant differences between groups in level of violence exposure reported.